29th October is Republic day in Turkey. Much like Nkrumah did for Ghana on 6th March 1957, on 29th October, 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and first President of modern day Turkey, having fought a long and difficult war of independence declared the foundation of the Republic of Turkey .
The Day is celebrated in all Turkish missions abroad and the Turkish Embassy in Accra organized a reception with the participation of high level dignitaries from the government as well as distinguished personalities representing different walks of life.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Mrs. Babara Oteng Gyasi joined Ambassador Dr. Ulueren for the National Day Activities.
As part of the occasion, Ambassador Ulueren gave an inspiring speech that highlighted the growth of Turkey-Ghana relations on different levels over the last several years of engagement. In her speech, she duly updated the audience on the incredible journey Turkey has made since the early days of becoming a Republic to the major economic powerhouse it is now, as well as how those successes have come about. According to her “through this 96-year journey, Turkey has been transformed to the 18th largest economy in the World, with 789 billion dollars GDP and a population of 82 million. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey, Turkey has become the fastest growing economy in Europe and one of the fastest growing economies with an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.6% in the world over the past 15 years”.
Highlighting Turkey’s immense Tourism endownments and capabilities, Ambassador Ulueren did not only provide the impressive statistics of her country’s successes in this crucial area but also educated her captive audience on yet another important archeological discovery recently made. This is what the Ambassador had to say, “We are among the top 10 holiday destinations in the world with over 40 million international tourists. Along with the large focus on a variety of historical sites and seaside resorts, Turkey has become a popular destination for Conferences, health and well being, sports, culture and culinary tourism.We are also blessed by the ancient civilizations and diverse cultural richness of Anatolia, our homeland where remarkable turning points in the history of mankind came into being”. In this vein, she mentioned Göbeklitepe, which is regarded as the most important archeological discovery of recent times. It was stated that “Göbeklitepe is the oldest temple yet discovered any where. This 12,000-year old religious site, situated in South Eastern Turkey shook the common knowledge on the evolution of mankind. It belongs to hunting and gathering societies of pre-pottery era. That’s why it is called zero-point in history. That’s why it was included in the world heritage list of UNESCO last year. Hence the year 2019 has been recognized in Turkey as the Year of Göbeklitepe”.
Turkey’s unique geographical location on the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East provides lots of opportunities and also challenges. The Ambassador took the opportunity to briefly discuss the recent millitary operation the Turkish Government undertook on its border with Syria. According to her the exercise dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’, launched on 9th October, 2019, was meant to eliminate a long standing terror threat against Turkey’s national security, to enforce Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, to liberate the local population from PYD/YPG’s oppression and to lay the ground for the safe and voluntary return of displaced Syrians. In this regard, she emphasized the importance of international cooperation in defeating terrorism.
Crucially, the Ambassador emphasized the fact the Turkey views Ghana as a key partner in the sub region and lauded Ghana for being selected as the host of the secretariat for the African Continental Free Trade Area. She also expressed Ankara’s appreciation to the Ghanaian Coast Guard and Eastern Navy Command in Tema for ensuring the safe anchoring and navigation of the Turkish flagged vessel PAKSOY-I after being attacked off the coast of Nigeria last July.
She reiterated Turkey’s resolve to continue to be a development partner to Ghana in line with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s vision of “Ghana Beyond Aid” and other flagship projects.
Since Ghana’s independence several large and small Turkish companies have played crucial roles in various sectors and contributed immensely to Ghana’s development efforts. It is thus little wonder that the Ambassador took time to highlight the important contributions of Turkish companies in key sectors such as energy, construction, logistics, health and water treatment. She also highlighted other key areas such as tourism, agriculture, transport and affordable housing as promising additional areas ripe for further Turkish-Ghana collaboration.
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Still on the economic relationship between Ghana and Turkey, Ambassador Ulueren gave a positive report on the current state of trade between the two countries. According to her, figures for the first nine months of 2019 indicate that for the first time, Ghana ranked as the third biggest trade partner of Turkey in sub-Saharan Africa. She stressed that Turkey will spare no effort to elevate the bilateral trade volume to the benefit of both sides.
Turkish Shipping Company ARKAS LINE contributes significantly to Ghana’s international trade, with around 20.000 TEU containerized on a yearly basis by calling the Tema Port with 2 weekly services, one coming/going from/to Mediterranean and the other coming/going from/to North Europe.
The design and construction of the New Terminal Building at the Kotoka International Airport, which has a capacity of 5 million passengers annually, was executed by Turkish Construction Company MAPA. Kotoka International Airport was recently adjudged the best airport in West Africa by the ACI and will serve the aspiration of Ghana to become a tourism destination in the sub-region.
Yet another important update the Ambassador gave in her speech is the systemic growth in educational ties between Ghana and Turkey.
Firstly she touched on the opening of the Maarif International School in Ghana. According to her “under the auspices of the Turkish Maarif Foundation, the nursery and kindergarten department of the Maarif International School was opened in Accra.
The foundation is willing to gradually expand it’s activities in Ghana. This correponds with Turkey’s vision to enhance cooperation with Ghana in the quest to attain Agenda 2030: Sustainable Development Goals, as education is key to progress in other areas”.
The Maarif International School, Operated under the auspices of the Turkish Maarif Foundation set up by the Turkish Government, finally opened in the serene Airport Residential Area earlier this year. The School currently operates the Nursery and Kindergarten departments with the view expand in the coming years
Touching on Turkey’s Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy being implemented since 2005, she also outlined some other developments in the educational sector between the two countries.
According to her, this year, Turkey offered additional 32 new University scholarships to Ghanaian students to study in Turkey.
Furthermore, she informed her audience that Protocols had been signed between Ankara University and University of Ghana last February, thus leading to yet another avenue opened for Ghanaian University students and scholars to engage in academic life in Turkey as guest students and lecturers.
At the conclusion of the event most of the audience in attendance were undoubtedly very impressed with Turkey’s efforts and activities in Ghana over the years. However, it is obvious that the potential of this relationship is much bigger than it is right now. It is also incumbent on our policy makers to also invest more into this relationship so as to enable us to build it further so we can harness far more from this important relationship.
Aboagye is a Turkey-Africa relations expert. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @aboagyetmintah
LinkedIn: @Aboagye.T.Mintah or IG:@mintahaboagye